It's a bit like the buses - you wait 2½ years for another article about Level Crossings and then two come at once. This one is occasioned by my attending Frank Roach's second Points North conference - reported elsewhere in FNE. Simon Constable (Head of Route Safety, Health and Environment at Network Rail, but as far as I'm concerned the LX guru), gave a most useful update of what happening on the FNL.
Line speeds have been, or shortly will be, increased at 4 LXs: Lairg, Balnacra, Brora and Rovie. Alas, thanks to increased road traffic use, it may need to be reduced at Bunchrew and Watten. Network Rail's Route Study says this "Bunchrew level crossing is due for renewal during CP6, which could align with introducing conventional signalling and higher linespeeds" which would be nice, but is clearly not immediate.
Observant passengers will have noted that, while barriers (AOCL+B) have been installed at almost all LXs on the FNL, Delny is still as it was. This is because lengthy negotiations with local residents and The Highland Council have failed to come to an agreement. NR now plans to carry out a temporary upgrade at Delny by fitting barriers next summer. This will be an interim ABCL allowing an increase in line speed to a welcome 55 mph. The longer-term ("early in CP6") solution is the construction of a bridge and the closure of the LX. It would seem reasonable to have 2020 in mind. The temporary piece of kit will be re-used then at Kildonan or Rogart, eliminating one of the two OCs (where there is no barrier, no warning wig-wag for dozy motorists); at Kildonan the train is required to stop lest an ox cart approach. Progress is in the air.
The long-running "temporary" speed restriction at Chapelton Farm just north of Muir of Ord, which has been on the go for about 6 years, will be lifted on 6 April 2017. But don't buy the champagne until a day or two before ... just in case.
The complicated situation in Dingwall - blessed, if that is the right word, with no fewer than 3 LXs - is to be made a great deal safer. Dingwall Middle - the one next to the High School - has, as you would expect, a lot of misuse from pupils dodging round the half barriers. They know perfectly well that the trains are going slowly, that they make a lot of noise, that they run to something approaching known time, and that they - the pupils - are immortal and thus free from risk. NR knows otherwise and as a result Dingwall Middle will be upgraded to AFBLM (the FB bit being full barrier) which will block off the full width of the roadway and pedestrian paths. The totally daft will find a way, no doubt, but the majority will see a complete barrier and will wait. This new kit - designed specially in Scotland - will be tested at my favourite Scottish LX - Ardrossan Princes Street - where the road is a proper width. (It is my favourite not least because it is where I was a passenger in my one, and I hope only, train crash.)
I wish I had good news, or news of any sort, on the lack of Parliamentary progress on the updating of 7000-odd Acts regulating LXs, but I haven't. Maybe next time - then, like the apocryphal buses, it will indeed be three in a row.
Mike has written a series of articles over several years about level crossings:
Locally monitored means there is a signal for train drivers to confirm the crossing is set and they have to confirm visually that it's safe.